Riding the Japanese Train

I participated in an experiment for a robotics company a few weeks ago which someone from Couchsurfing needed some help on (I’ll write more about this later).

I normally work from about 12pm – 9pm, which means I have to catch the train for work around 11:00 am. At that point in the day, the train isn’t crowded. There are maybe a few late starters to work, like me and my coworkers.

To get to the testing facility on time I had to catch a train at 8:00 am instead. This is rush hour. I’m not talking the kind of environment where you’re stuck in traffic, in your own car, listening to the radio, breathing your own air and carbon monoxide… It’s more like a suck-in-your-gut-and-hope-the-sliding-door-doesn’t-close-on-your-genitals-while-you’re-standing-face-to-face-with-someone-while-you-accidentally-grope-them-with-your-briefcase-holding-hand kind of environment (phew!).

I was sick last week, so at the time I was just getting rid of a sore throat. While I was on one of these uncomfortably crowded trains my throat started to itch really bad and I had to cough. The problem was I couldn’t because someone’s eyes would have been looking straight into my open mouth while I coughed on them.

I couldn’t breathe without coughing, it was terrible. I cleared my throat as best as I could (*MMhmm*…. *ahem*…) and the whole time this little old lady watched me as my face started to get red…. a single solitary tear started to roll down my face because my eyes were watering so bad from supressing my cough…. I couldn’t wipe it away because my hand was nestled snugly between someone’s buttocks.

It was one of the most uncomfortable situations I’ve ever been in. As soon as I got off the train I coughed and drank water and coughed some more, all with a red and tear-streaked face. No wonder people think foreigners are so weird.

When I look back on it now, it’s hilarious. But at the time I was pretty darn happy I don’t normally take the 8:00 train.

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